The nose draws to a point. It's an arrow. The tail tapers like the business end of rifle ammo. It squares up, impossibly mean in its stance.

The 2017 Ford GT sets the newest benchmark  for things that look fast while standing still.

Lots of street cars ape track machines. Ford developed its striking two-seater along with the star-spangled weapons that scored first-, third-, and fourth-class finishes at last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. It's armed to the hilt with race-ready gear, from its carbon-fiber chassis to its trick inboard suspension.

And yes, it can hit 216 mph, thank you very much.

2017 Ford GT

2017 Ford GT

Doors up, body down

Before we dive into the gorgeous details, let's call out the elephant in the room. The GT’s 3.5-liter, twin-turbo V-6 swims upstream against the droolworthy 8-, 10- and 12-cylinder exotica from Ferrari and Lamborghini. 

Does cylinder count limit Ford’s flagship to an almost-there contender, a latter-day Lotus Esprit? Or does it defy the limitations and warrant fully stratospheric supercar status?

We spent a day behind the wheel at Utah Motorsports Campus and surrounding roads to unravel the mystery. Let’s just get this out of the way right now: you’re welcome.

Apart from the undersized cylinder count, the Ford GT packs in oversized dollops of engineering. The minimalist carbon chassis helps limit dry weight to 3,054 pounds. Ford cloaks a steel, FIA-approved roll cage between the carbon bits. The GT's doors open upward and outward in proper billionaire fashion. The GT boasts its specialness from every cranny: carbon-fiber body panels, optional carbon wheels, even a multi-position rear spoiler that acts as an airbrake and can change its shape to smooth its aerodynamic profile.

Plop your butt into the pilot’s seat carefully, it's a tad awkward. It's still easier than in the guillotine-ish 2005 GT. The controls come to you: the seat anchors to the floorboard, but the button-clad steering wheel and spring-loaded pedal box move to meet the driver.

2017 Ford GT

2017 Ford GT

The delightfully sleek interior sports a minimalist carbon-fiber dashboard wrapped in leather. It doubles as a structural member. Just past that panel sits a floating arch that houses stereo and GPS antennae. Air vents rest in neat double-stacks along the door panel, so as not to disrupt the dash. The GT’s designers duked it out with engineers and won several battles along the way.

Our test vehicle had a four-point racing harness that attaches to the GT’s bucket seats without any extra hardware, just like a proper racecar. Once buckled in, it takes a moment to get familiar with the multifunction steering wheel and its spray of buttons and dials. It looks like a melted hexagon that got lost in a button factory, but the wheel grants immediate access to wiper controls, turn signals, drive mode settings, and cruise control.

Press the center stack-mounted starter button and the twin-turbo V-6 ignites, triggering a very V-6-sounding exhaust thrum and some surprising incidental sounds like valve noise and pulley whine. For all its visual drama, the exhaust note lets down the GT's arresting shape.

Turn the tiny steering wheel dial to Track, and the GT shows off its best party trick. It bypasses hydraulically actuated dampers in the suspension to lower the vehicle nearly 2 inches closer to the ground. It can only do so when the engine is running, but it's a showstopping effect. It slams  the GT's ride height so far down, it looks like the wheels may just scrape against the wheel wells. This configuration is all about speed: the front splitters and the wing lifts for max downforce, spring rates and damper settings stiffen, and the stability and traction control systems become more permissive.

Ready for liftoff

Ford raided the parts bin for the centrally positioned shifter dial. It's one of the few weak spots in the stunning cabin. What happens when the dial turns to "D" makes the trip to the bargain bin worth it.

Ford has cranked up all the GT's powertrain nerve endings. The throttle take-up feels direct and intuitive. Though it still can’t compete with the immediacy of a naturally aspirated engine, the twin-turbo-6 keeps its throttle open even with no gas-pedal pressure. That maintains boost, and makes the GT ready to run when you mash the pedal.

Goose it again, and the GT whooshes ahead with confident charge. Shifts from the dual-clutch 7-speed come fairly swiftly and smoothly in standard mode, though they get more abrupt in the more aggressive Track setting. The machined aluminum paddles have a pleasantly ribbed finish, conveying a direct effect on shift action.

The suspension barely squats under all that thrust as it ramps up forward momentum. At an oxygen-sapping 4,000 feet of elevation, the GT's acceleration still feels satisfyingly strong. It only reveals a slight decline in thrust as the digital tach approaches the 7,000-rpm redline. It’s all but impossible not to be intrigued by whatever untapped thrust might be left on the table.

Street driving turns mundane in Normal mode, despite the GT’s alien styling and low-slung body. The lightweight carbon wheels put less mass at all four corners, and as a result, the GT damps bumpy roads surprisingly well. The refined suspension runs counter to the aural experience inside the cockpit. Ford cancels out some engine noises by piping sound through the GT’s stereo speakers. Something's still missing in the exhaust note; it begs for an aftermarket solution to round out the car’s oversized personality. A gearbox whine at 2,500 rpm hints at the GT’s compressed development timeline, too. It's a small blemish on what otherwise feels like a four-wheeled masterpiece.

2017 Ford GT

2017 Ford GT

2017 Ford GT

2017 Ford GT

2017 Ford GT

2017 Ford GT

2017 Ford GT

2017 Ford GT

Switch it to Track, and the GT feels more glued down to tarmac without the harshness you might expect from such aggressive setting. Interestingly, despite its eco-themed powertrain, the GT’s steering remains hydraulic, conveying a good amount of information about road surface texture and suspension load. Speed accumulates quickly on public Utah roads, but even at triple-digit velocities in Track mode the steering feels a touch sensitive to on-center inputs, suggesting the car is more interested in turning than it is tracking a straight line.

At Utah Motorsports Campus’s 2.2-mile west course, the GT changes direction with slot car-like responsiveness. Mid-corner steering adjustments yield perceptible weight transfer. 

The lack of the brake vectoring you’d find in a McLaren 720S or Porsche 911 Turbo put the onus on the driver to properly place the car in a corner. Hit your mark, and the chassis feels balanced and poised, handling each corner with precision. Accelerate too early while turning, and the front end will push.

Stability control enables a fair amount slip angle, which seemed to be easier than it might have been due to the low ambient temperatures (we saw light snowfall earlier in the day). Pushing harder for intentional slides revealed chatter from the chilly Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s, suggesting considerably more grip would be available under warmer conditions. The 6- and 4-piston carbon-ceramic Brembos offer copious stopping power, encouraging later braking on the faster corners.

Super enough?

The Ford GT, for all its space-age construction and concept car styling, inspires lively debate from gearheads.

Does its Canadian construction by Multimatic make it a truly American supercar? Is it a supercar if it’s powered by a compact V-6–not a wailing V-8, a snorting V-10, or a screaming V-12?

These questions vex enthusiasts in the cult. They fuel endless debates on the philosophy of intangibles versus spec sheets–even as the GT’s race version has proved its mettle at the world’s most grueling motorsports event.

For what it’s worth, I savored my day with this four-wheeled wedge, despite a steady diet of sampling high-end exotics. The Ford GT feels special inside and out, cylinder count be damned. That, coupled with its race-proven underpinnings and scant production numbers, makes it one of the most gratifying ways to punch a $450,000 hole into the atmosphere.

--Basem Wasef